The Vanguard Method

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The Vanguard Method a is a proprietary methodology delivered by Vangurd Consulting ( used by service organisations to change from a command and control to a systems approach to the design and management of work.[1] The method was invented by the occupational psychologist and former Professor John Seddon who began his career researching the reasons for failures of major change programmes. Based on what he learned he developed this method for change, which he describes as "a combination of systems thinking - how the work works - and intervention theory - how to change it".[2]

The method represents a translation of Taiichi Ohno's ideas behind the Toyota Production System for service organisations. The method makes the assumption that service is different from manufacturing. According to the Vanguard Method, there is inherently greater variety in customer demand, hence the need to design to absorb that variety. Proponents of the Vanguard method recommend that service organisations avoid the 'lean tools' developed for 'lean manufacturing' as they don't apply well in service organisations.

The Vanguard Method enables managers to study their organisation as a system and on the basis of the knowledge gained, re-design their services to improve performance and drive out costs. 'Failure demand' is a type of waste often discovered during the 'Check' phase of the Vanguard Method. John Seddon invented the concept of failure demand when he discovered that the movement of ‘telephone work’ to call centres from local bank branches in the 1980s caused an explosion in the volumes of demand – the number of phone calls soared. He found that the rise in call volumes was attributable to the creation of ‘failure demand’, i.e. people ringing back because they did not get their problem solved the first time. The same phenomenon also occurred in the public sector as local authorities and housing associations moved telephone work into call centres.[3] Demand was much greater than expected or planned for. Seddon argues that increasing demand was not the result of success but of failure. Seddon has indicated that his work in local government has shown that failure demand in such call centres can run as high as 80% of total demand.


  1. ^ About systems thinking. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  2. ^ The Vanguard Method. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  3. ^ Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: The Failure of the Reform Regime and a Manifesto for a Better Way: John Seddon: Books. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.